"Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in Heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before. For you are the salt of the earth...You are the light of the world." -Matthew 5:11-12; 13-14 (NRSV)
"Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you are sharing Christ's sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when His glory is revealed. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory, which is the Spirit of God, is resting on you." -1 Peter 4:12-14 (NRSV)
"For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all..." -2 Corinthians 4:17 (NRSV)
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Without a second thought, we can quickly think that Jesus is repeating Himself with today's verse. It seems to - once again - just speak of those who are persecuted.
But I have to tell you, verse 11 is a challenging call.
If you read every one of the Beatitudes - up until verse 11 - never will you find the pronoun "you." If you do not believe me, check it out for yourself.
Eight of the nine "blessed" commands speak of "they"s and "those"s. Eight times, Jesus looks into the eyes of His hearers and refers to "those people." Yet here, something changes.
In an instance, Jesus locks the gaze of each listener and speaks directly to their hearts. "Blessed are you..."
What they were yet to realize was the great calling of being a true Disciple. It is a calling away from social norms. Away from bandwagon following. Away from easy decisions. And away from majority rule.
The calling of Jesus is a burden in this world. Though "easy" on our souls, Jesus' burden is difficult to our flesh. And this burden will present us with many "fiery ordeals" in our lifetime.
Just as Jesus was, we will be hurt. Just as He was, we will be neglected. Just as He was, we will be betrayed. Just as He was, we will be seemingly alone. And just as He was, we will be accused.
But the joy amidst it all is found in the start of each of those statements..."Just as Jesus was." Meaning - He and I are together. Peter writes that our persecution stems from the "spirit of glory" within us. Blessed are you.
Because God's Spirit is resting upon us, the world will always be without rest towards us; the tension will always remain.
But this is why Jesus transitions directly into the rest of His sermon in Matthew 5. After speaking into the hearts of those listening, He now tells them something of dire-importance: who they are.
"You are salt...You are light."
Yes, we can read these as completely separate from the Beatitudes, but it only damages the purpose and theme that Jesus was communicating. What we overlook was that these words reigned in right after Jesus said "Blessed are you." There was not a thirty minute intermission, there was not a break for lunch, and there was not even a transitional pause.
His teaching of our blessing flows straight into our role of being salt and light. And if you think about it, this makes sense...
Our identity is the exact reason to why we are being persecuted.
In this world, there are people - and beings - that do not like our saltiness. They despise the fact that salt preserves whatever it touches. And in a world where decay and death is natural, it makes sense that a preserving touch would be hated among some.
But that is not all... To the lovers of darkness, light is overbearing. It needs to be dealt with. It needs to be blocked. And it needs to be hidden. No one who is numbed by the darkness likes the blinding glory of the light.
Yet we are both salt and light. We are redeemed people with the ability to redeem people. To a world of brokenness, we bring an alternate life.
But today, let us not shy away from this calling.
You are blessed because you are a person of the light. You are blessed because you have the very Spirit of God resting upon you. And you are blessed because wherever you go, you spread the preserving grace of Jesus.
As you live out today, let Paul's words to the Corinthian church fill your mind: "For your light and momentary troubles are achieving for you an eternal glory that far outweighs them all." -2 Corinthians 4:17
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Greg, Declare Glory